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Prof Pogge teaches ethics at Yale, but does he shave himself?

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — Pogge’s ethics, Russell’s barber paradox, and self-reference ]
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It’s that old ouroboros [1, 2, 3, 4] rearing its ugly head again, with its tail firmly between its teeth:

DQ 600 ethicists & barbers

**

The riddle, koan or potential paradox posed in the upper panel alludes to the matter of Yale’s professor Thomas Pogge, a noted ethicist, and some unbecoming behavior of which he has been accused — but as professor Judith Stark writing at Conversation suggests, there’s further interest beyond the case of Pogge and his accusers.

Responding to the question posed by the title of her own piece, Should ethics professors observe higher standards of behavior?, she writes:

This is an enduring dilemma in the area of ethics and one that has recently come to light with charges of unethical behavior brought against a prominent philosopher, Professor Thomas Pogge of Yale University. Pogge has been accused of manipulating younger women in his field into sexual relationships, a charge he has strenuously denied.

Without making any judgment on the case itself, this situation raises larger questions about how the behavior of the experts in ethics is to be reviewed and evaluated.

Profession and practice are, in their own way, like word and act — or are they?

**

In the lower panel, I’ve placed a discussion of Bertrand Russell‘s “barber” paradox that in Russell’s view partially but not fully resembles his paradox of the “class of all classes that are not members of themselves” — the question there being whether this class is a member of itself or not. I’m not in a position to argue such matters with Russell, so I’ll just say that he views both the “classes” and “barber” paradoxes as (different but similar) seeming knots which, when you pull on their loose ends, disentangle themselves, pop!:

Russell writes of the “barber” paradox that it is a variant on the “classes” paradox in which “the contradiction is not very difficult to solve.” The “classes” paradox is harder, he says, but he finally dismisses it as “nonsense, i.e., that no class either is or is not a member of itself, and that it is not even true to say that, because the whole form of words is just a noise without meaning.”

Or as Wm. Shakespeare might have said, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” — to which Witty Wittgenstein might have quipped, “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent” — which, alas, has the air of a tautology, with the entire Tractatus thereby eating its own tail..

**

What do you think? Is the entire question of ethicists behaving ethically or unethically moot? a koan? does it eat its own tail? does it just melt into thin air, and leave not a rack behind?

Sources:

  • Judith Stark, Should ethics professors observe higher standards of behavior?
  • Esther Inglis-Arkell, The Barber Paradox Shook the Foundations of Math

  • Bertrand Russell, Logic and Knowledge: Essays, 1901-1950
  • Considering Viv, Wolfram Language, Syntience, and the GBG

    Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — expanding the computable to include qualitative ideation ]
    .

    Let’s start with Viv. It looks pretty phenomenal:

    That video is almost exactly a month old, and it’s pitched at “the universe of things” with a marked tilt towards e-commerce. Fair enough.

    **

    It’s instructive to compare it with Wolfram Language, although here I’ve had to go with a video that’s a couple of years old:

    Stephen Wolfram, the creator of both Mathematica and Wolfram Alpha, is focused on the world of numbers — and incidentally, that includes graphs of the sort I’ve been discussing in my series here On the felicities of graph-based game-board design, as you can see in the video above.

    It will be interesting to see how the two of them — Viv and Wolfram — interact over time. After all, one of the purposes of these lines of development is to dissolve the “walled gardens” which serve as procrustean beds for current thinking about the nature and possibilities of the web. Do these two gardens open to each other? If so, why? If not, why not?

    **

    I’ve talked enough for my purposes about AlphaGo and it’s narrowly focused though impressive recent triumph, and the wider picture behind it, as expressed by Monica Anderson — and tying the two together, we have this video from Monica’s timeline, Bob Hearn: AlphaGo and the New Era of Artificial Intelligence:

    Bob Hearn: AlphaGo and the New Era of Artificial Intelligence from Monica Anderson on Vimeo.

    Monica’s Syntience, it seems to be, is a remarkable probing of the possibilities before us.

    **

    But I’m left asking — because Hermann Hesse in his Nobel-winning novel The Glass Bead Game prompts me to ask — what about the universe of concepts — and in particular for my personal tastes, the universe of musical, philosophical, religious and poetic concepts. What of the computational mapping of the imagination?

    My question might well have large financial implications, but I’m asking it in a non-commercially and not only quantitative way. I believe it stands in relationship to these other endeavors, in fact, as pure mathematics stands in relation to physics, and hence also to chemistry, biology and more. And perhaps music stands in that relationship to mathematics? — but I digress.

    If I’m right about the universe of concepts / Glass Bead Game project, it will be the most intellectually demanding, the least commercially obvious, and finally the most revelatory of these grand-sweep ideas..

    From my POV, it’s also the one that can give the most value-add to human thinking in human minds, and to CT analysts, strategists, journos, educators, therapists, bright and playful kids — you name them all!

    Seeing it in terms of counterpoint, as Hesse did — it’s the virtual music of ideas.

    Namagiri and Ramanujan

    Sunday, May 1st, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — in which we glimpse the (female) divinity hidden behind infinity ]
    .

    Ramanujan and Namagiri

    **

    It is one of the curiosities of mathematics that the great Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan claimed to have received many, if not all, of his equations from the goddess Namagiri in dreams — and that this idea is all too often quietly omitted from discussions of his uncanny brilliance.

    Now that The Man Who Knew Infinity is out in theaters, it might be wise to explore the connection between Namagiri and Ramanujan a little more closely.

    Dream and waking, darshan and mathematics, inspiration and intuition, intuition and proof, quality and quantity — these polarities are all involved..

    To its credit, the film contains the line:

    You want to know how I get my ideas? God speaks to me.

    However, the idea that “God” might be a goddess seems a reach too far for the screenwriters and director.

    Viewing:

  • Matt Brown, The Man Who Knew Infinity
  • Here’s one version of the trailer:

    **

    Stephen Wolfram posted a fine article on his blog last week, Who Was Ramanujan?. He was willing to mention that Ramanujan’s friend and collaborator, GH Hardy, “could be very nerdy — whether about cricket scores, proving the non-existence of God, or writing down rules for his collaboration with Littlewood” — but fails in 31 pages to mention Ramanujan’s own belief that he received his equations from a goddess.

    All of which caused me to pose a question to Wolfram’s own algorithmic genie, Wolfram Alpha:

    Did Namagiri reveal equations to Ramanujan?

    WolframAlpha skipped the words “Did Namagiri reveal” and “to” and concentrated on responding to “equations” and “Ramanujan” — not quite up to par with AlphaGo, I’m afraid, let alone Ramanujan himself, or better, Namagiri.

    Below’s the DoubleQuote I made to by way of comment — note that I’ve only had space for the first line of WolframApha’s extended response:

    Tablet DQ ramanujan namagiri wolfram 1

    **

    Readings:

  • Stephen Wolfram, Who Was Ramanujan?
  • Hinduism Today, Computing the Mathematical Face of God
  • Huffington Post, Ramanujan’s Mock Modular Forms
  • The Hindu, American mathematicians solve Ramanujan’s “deathbed” puzzle
  • Sadhguru, Doorway to the Beyond
  • Paul Chika Emekwulu, Mathematical Encounters: For the inquisitive mind
  • The Hindu, The Man Who Knew Infinity: A misunderstood mind
  • How to draw a circle in a line

    Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — Robert Redford and Brad Pitt on a Berlin rooftop ]
    .

    circle on a line Spy Game rooftop
    how do you draw a circle in an entirely linear medium?

    **

    The movie is Spy Game, with Robert Redford and Brad Pitt.

    To my mind, it’s a brilliant piece of film making: director Tony Scott chose a terrific location for Nathan Muir (Redford)’s debrief reaming of Tom Bishop (Pitt), in the course of which Muir very pointedly tells Bishop:

    Listen to this, because this is important. If you’d pulled a stunt there and got nabbed, I wouldn’t come after you. You go off the reservation, I will not come after you.

    That’s the heart of the movie, right there, in negative — because the whole movie is about Bishop going off reservation in China, pulling a stunt there, and getting nabbed by the Chinese, and Muir coming after Bishop and rescuing him, with great shenanigans and flashbacks along the way.

    Scott wants to draw a circle around that point, to drive it home — but this is a movie, a totally linear sequence frames, whether celluloid or digital, so how do you draw a circle in a linear medium?

    Scott shoots the scene atop a circular roof, and before, during and after the conversation between the two men, has the camera circle the building:

    **

    I know, I stretch the limits of this blog mercilessly — and I’m spending this post on a piece of cinema technique. Let’s just say that I take Adam Elkus‘ words seriously:

    Clausewitz himself was heavily inspired by ideas from other fields and any aspiring Clausewitzian ought to mimic the dead Prussian’s habit of reading widely and promiscuously.

    I’m being promiscuous.

    **

    There are two other major points caught in Scott’s tight circle. One offers the essence of Spy Game, emphasis on the spy:

    Bishop: Okay, help me understand this one. Nathan, what are we doing here? Don’t bullshit me about the greater good.
    Muir: That’s exactly what it’s about. Because what we do is, unfortunately, very necessary.

    The other gets to the other half of the name Spy Gamegame:

    Bishop: It’s not a fucking game!
    Muir: Yes, it is. That’s exactly what it is. It’s no kid’s game, either, but a whole other game. And it’s serious, and it’s dangerous, and it’s not one you want to lose.

    So, in the gospel according to Spy Game, espionage is a deadly and death-dealing game, played unfortunately but very necessarily for the greater good. All that in three short minutes, with a circle drawn around it for emphasis.

    **

    Thus a problem in geometry is artfully transcended.

    The trouble with moral high ground

    Thursday, March 31st, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — fitness landscapes and the Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond ]
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    With the rise and fall of sea levels, sky levels, land emerges or submerges, mountain ranges with scattered lakes in their valleys transform into archipelagos, island clusters surge up to become continents — rise and fall, ebb and flow, wave upon wave..

    I mean, really, what of the moral high ground?

    **

    Consider these:

    Figure 13: Schematic “adaptive” or “fitness” landscape. 

    Adaptive Basins and Strange Peaks

    Biologists talk about adaptive landscapes. In these metaphorical places, species climb uphill towards optimal fitness. Going up is a struggle. Climbing takes energy. Optimal peaks can be hard to attain. Many species are distracted by getting stuck on sub-optimal false peaks, or waylaid by the intervening rugged landscape.

    Sources:

  • ResearchGate, Schematic “adaptive” or “fitness” landscape
  • The Technium, Adaptive Basins and Strange Peaks
  • **

    Nemesis and the Prophets are agreed:

    Every valley shall be exalted, every mountain and hill made low

    — or as Mary said of her son’s father:

    He buffets proud folk about like leaves in a gale.
    He upsets those that hold themselves high and mighty
    and rescues the least one of us.

    Ursula le Guin voiced Lao Tzu for us in English:

    True goodness
    is like water.
    Water’s good
    for everything.
    It doesn’t compete.

    It goes right
    to the low loathsome places,
    and so finds the way.

    Furthermore:

    What’s softest in the world
    rushes and runs
    over what’s hardest in the world.

    The immaterial
    enters
    the impenetrable.

    **

    O ye’ll tak’ the high road, and I’ll tak’ the low road, And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye


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